Daisy Cooper: International Schoolgirl
When you're twelve years old and want to travel the world as a reporter for International Schoolgirl magazine you'd better be able to prove you can find a good story at home first.

Budding reporter Daisy Cooper finds the perfect school when she wins a place at the brilliant but eccentric Darlington School for Girls. With maths classes that involve poker games, science lectures where pupils fire rockets and biology lessons that take place in a real zoo it is everything she could have wished for.
The school is also home to International Schoolgirl, a magazine that sends specially chosen pupils - International Schoolgirls - on adventures across the globe in search of groundbreaking stories. To travel the world as a reporter is something Daisy has always wanted and she dreams of being chosen.

Daisy begins an adventure closer to home, however, when she gets lost in the school maze one evening and stumbles across the mysterious Sisters of the Black Night - a hooded secret society that meets under the cover of darkness. Convinced The Sisters are up to no good Daisy enlists the help of her dorm mates - the 88ers - to get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s an adventure that takes her through ancient pirate diaries, shark infested tunnels, perilous sword fights and on motorcycle chases through the stormy English countryside. When Daisy finally discovers The Sisters’ dark secret she has to make the most difficult choice of her life: having the job she always dreamed of, or doing what’s right.

Excerpts from the book (and subsequent books) will be posted here. If you wish to contact me for further information or promotions please click here

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Daisy Cooper and the Sisters of the Black Night: Chapter Two Testing Times

Above her bed Daisy kept a corkboard that had different things pinned to it. There were postcards from pen pals around the world, pictures of her mum, post-it notes with interesting facts she had learnt at school and pictures of people she admired printed out from the internet. She cleared a space in the middle and pinned the Darlington handkerchief in the centre.
Feeling much better after her bath she put a couple of kievs and some curly fries in the oven for her brothers and pulled down the recipe book, turning to a fresh page. Grilled salmon with a lemon sauce and new potatoes. Perfect. Daisy wrote the ingredients down, took a ten pound note from the kitty jar and went to the shops.
By the time Percy and Henry arrived home from school their dinner was on the table. They threw down their bags and started scoffing, barely saying hello. Daisy left them to it and went through to the small room the family used as a study and turned on the computer. The computer was old and clunky and made a lot of noise. Mr Cooper had bought it home from work and despite its tattiness it worked fine. As it booted up Daisy thought back over the day. She thought of the Darlington school bus and the girls that had climbed out of it. They seemed so different to what she was used to. She tried to imagine herself climbing down out of the bus with them but her imagination kept playing tricks on her. In her mind, her uniform was dishevelled, her hat on crooked and as she climbed down from the steps, she fell face first into a puddle.

“Stop it, brain.” She muttered and clicked onto the internet. 

Daisy found the site for Darlington School for Girls. She was disappointed to find there wasn’t a photograph of the actual school on the front page. There were, however, different sections on its history, its curriculum and how to enrol. The history section said that the school had been founded in 1837 on the coronation of Queen Victoria at a time when there weren’t much expectations for women. Its founder, Professor Albrecht Darlington, had established the school and been its first and only headmaster. According to the website it was a Darlington tradition that there had been no other Headmaster since then, only a Deputy Head. There wasn’t even any mention of him retiring. Albrecht Darlington was a bit of a recluse and though a great painting of him hung in the main assembly hall of the school no one had seen him in the flesh. That was a bit odd, thought Daisy. The only record of anything Professor Darlington had said or done was in a single quote where he outlined the purpose of Darlington School for Girls which was:

“For the education of the young woman with the object of encouraging her to fulfil the blossoming of her natural character. To assist in this venture Darlington promotes eight core virtues: Charity, Bravery, Reason, Culture, Grace, Agility, Fellowship and Honour.” 

The website then explained how the eight dorm houses for girls who were staying at the school were each named after one of the virtues. Daisy heard the front door shutting. She clicked off the internet and walked out to greet her dad.

Mr Kane looked across at Daisy and shook his head slowly. His face looked tired.

“Do you know what this is, Daisy?”

Mr Kane was holding up a folder. Daisy shook her head.

“This is your conduct report. Every grade you make, every recommendation, every achievement since you started is written down in this document. So is every complaint about you, report of bad behaviour, every detention. When you move onto your next school we have to make a recommendation on the stream you will be joining: top, middle or bottom. That recommendation is based not just on your grades - which we both know are always good - but on your behaviour.”

Mr Kane dropped the folder on his desk with a heavy sigh.

“Daisy, you failed to come home on the school coach with the other pupils yesterday. Do you understand how much trouble that can put the school into?”

It was no good, she had to speak.

“BUT Sir, I told you! I was pushed into one of the excavations by some school girls.”

“So why didn’t you cry for help.”

“I was knocked out!”

Mr Kane looked at her long and hard.

“Daisy, wether you were knocked out or wether you decided to join the circus for the day, its just one thing too many in your report. I’m going to have to recommend that Degham drops you down to middle stream.”

Daisy felt as though she’d been knocked unconscious all over again. She sat, speechless. Mr Kane took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

“Daisy, if there was anything I could do, I would keep things as they were, but I can’t. We have very strict guidelines we have to meet. If I was to do anything else and you pulled another of your stunts at Degham, they’d come straight back to us.”

Tears welled up in Daisy’s eyes. She thought of another three years of boring lessons that she already knew all the answers to. She felt like a prisoner who’d walked out of one cell only to find herself in another.
Daisy ran to her room when she got back, pulled the curtains closed and sobbed. It was so unfair. What made it worse was that she’d no longer be in the same classes as Koola and Daniel. She sobbed until she was too tired to sob any more and lay back, quietly looking up at the glow stars. Outside, behind the dark curtains, there was laughter and talking and people enjoying the summer, totally unaware of her. Daisy tried to imagine that her mum was there somehow in the stars, her body fit and healthy and her face glowing with beauty again. She remembered how she used to sit in the wicker chair in the corner of the room when Daisy was upset, dressed in her fluffy dressing gown, smiling at Daisy and telling her everything would be okay. Daisy looked over at the wicker chair. A pile of stuffed toys, neatly arranged, stared back. Daisy sighed and closed her eyes.
There was a small rattle like a coin dropping on a table and Daisy felt something soft and slightly warm land on her face. She opened her eyes and grabbed at her face, sitting up. It was the Darlington handkerchief. The thumb tac she had used to fixed it had fallen out. Above the blank space in the corkboard where the handkerchief had been pinned was a picture of her mum staring back and smiling. Daisy looked at the handkerchief in her hand. Then she looked up at the glow stars. Then she ran downstairs to the study room and switched on the computer.

The mouse pointer hovered over the button that read “TAKE ONLINE ENTRANCE EXAM” for several minutes. Daisy - one hand on the mouse, the other holding the handkerchief - tried to summon up the courage. Her mind raced through several thoughts - she could try later, she needed to feed gibbon and get dad’s dinner ready, she didn’t have time, she was too tired, but they were all excuses and she knew it. What she was really afraid of was that she might fail.

“Come on, Daisy.” she said to herself, “What have you got to lose.”

She clicked the mouse and stared at the first question.

The next few weeks moved slowly. School finished and Daisy looked ahead to a long summer of babysitting her older brothers. She tried to fill her time by cleaning the house, burying her head in books and writing in her journal. David and Koola - who were both really sorry they had left Daisy in the Villa - had both gone away on holiday with their parents. There was no holiday in store for the Cooper family. Mr Cooper would come home after the long shifts at work and fall exhausted into his chair, barely able to speak. Daisy was waiting for the letter to tell her if she had passed the online exam. With Gibbon winding around her legs miaowing every morning, she would flick through the mail, hands trembling. It was always the same. Bills, bills, bills.
It had been a hot Sunday night. Daisy had found it difficult to sleep and crawled out of bed later than usual. She stretched with a yawn as made her way downstairs to see Gibbon laying on his back in the shade on the cool kitchen lino. He looked up accusingly at Daisy.

“Its not my fault, Gibbon. Blame the sun.”

Gibbon narrowed his eyes and growled. Daisy filled his food dish and sat at the table with a bowl of cereal. The flip-flap sound of the letter box echoed from the hallway. Daisy frowned at her cereal. It had been weeks now and the little glimmer of hope she’d had was almost gone. She assumed that if she had got through, they would have let her know by now. After all, there was a lot to get done. If you got through the online exam, there was a proper written one and then there was still the interview. Even then, if you actually got accepted there was a whole load of complicated and expensive things to sort out like uniforms and books and alarm clocks and wash bags. You practically had to buy enough to fill a second house to take with you. Daisy padded down the hallway and picked the letters up from the matt. Bill...Bill...Junk Mail....Miss D. Cooper...Bill....

Hang on.

Daisy turned back to the letter with her name on and dropped the rest. She held it out in front of her and walked slowly back to the kitchen. The envelope was a dark green colour and had her name and address typed on the front in a fancy script. She turned it over. Sure enough, there on the back was the school crest with the words “Darlington School for Girls”.

“Blimey, Gibbon.” whispered Daisy. 
There was a thumping sound from above as her brothers stirred and started arguing. She didn’t want to deal with them right now.

Back in her room, Daisy climbed on her bed and sat cross-legged. She put the letter down carefully in front of her. All she had to do was open it and she would know if she had got through. Then again, all she had to do was open it find out she had failed.

“Come on, Daisy.” she said to herself. With eyes still closed she picked up the letter and carefully tore it open. She reached inside and pulled out the letter, unfolding it. She held it up to her face and opened her eyes.

Dear Miss Daisy Cooper,
We are pleased to announce that you have made it through to the next round of our application process and are invited to attend a written exam at 2:30pm on Saturday August 5th. Please find directions and instructions for confirmation at the bottom of this letter.
Yours Sincercely,
Mistress Aitken,
Deputy Head, Darlington School for Girls.


Daisy leapt in the air with a shout, nearly falling in the bed. With the letter clutched in her hand she bounced up and down, yelling for the whole world to hear. Downstairs Gibbon panicked and ran out the cat flap. Henry and Percy stopped arguing for a moment and looked at each other.

Butterflies in her stomach, train ticket clutched in her hand, Daisy took a seat by the window on one of the train carriages. Fortunately it wasn’t that busy. The exam was at nine o’clock and it was barely past seven now. She’d left a note at home saying that she had to go out and do something for school (which was kind of true). She just hoped she didn’t get back too late. On the carriage there were a few students, a party of Japanese tourists talking about their trip to Stonehenge and a couple of businessmen drinking hot coffee over enormous bundles of newspapers. Daisy was the only child she could see. As the train pulled out of the station, she took off her coat and opened her satchel. The train journey was over an hour and rather than get nervous, Daisy thought she’d bury herself into her books. It was only for nerves really. She knew every fact in every book she owned and there were books on the animal kingdom, science, history, geography and maths. Besides, Daisy really had no idea what to expect from the interview.
When the train pulled into Darlington Station, Daisy hurriedly pushed all her books back in her bag and climbed out onto the platform. When she did, she was suddenly shocked. Along the whole length of the platform there were girls the same age as her, most of whom Daisy noticed with a sense of embarrassment, were dressed in school uniforms and not jeans and a tee shirt. Some wore strawboaters, some were in ankle length skirts and school ribbons, all in impossibly neat blazers. A hand clapped Daisy on her shoulder causing her to nearly leap out of her skin.

Daisy turned round quickly to find a girl the same age as her with a sharp, dark bob and a wide, cheeky grin.
“You on your own for this one too?”
The girl was American.
“Yes.” said Daisy. “You’re American.”
The girl with the black bob laughed.
“Thanks for telling me. The name’s Brodie.”
The girl held out her hand. Daisy took it and shook.
“Hi, I’m Daisy.”
“Daisy? Cute name. Okay, Daisy which way do we go to get to the castle? I reckon some right jolly old tea with the queen and such.”
It was a terrible attempt at an English accent and Brodie knew it. She laughed and nudged Daisy gently with her shoulder.
“Come on” she said pointing to the other girls who were leaving the station with their parents, “Lets follow the gaggle of geese.”
Outside the station there was a coach waiting. Daisy, pulled along by Brodie, climbed in and sat near the back. They watched the countryside go by as the bus pulled along narrow country roads, Brodie seemed excited by every tree and bush. Everything was “really cute” and whenever there was more than one thing, like a group of cows, she would call it a “bunch”.

“Hey, look at that bunch of cows over there.”
“Which ones?”
“The really cute ones behind that bunch of trees.”

Daisy wasn’t sure that anything other than flowers came in bunches. Apart from her quirks, it was obvious to Daisy that Brodie was fiercely intelligent and quick minded. In between her excitement for the rolling hills of Southern England, she talked about where she was from and asked questions.

“So, my mom and dad live in LA but they’re so not LA if you know what I mean. My mom is Scotch descended and my Dad’s family is from Russia so they aren’t that great with the sun. You can’t move in our house for sun cream bottles. Dad’s a computer geek - runs a software company. Mom’s a transport lecturer but she wants to be a yoga teacher. She could bore you to death about yoga.”
“That’s interesting.” Daisy replied, her head reeling with information.
“So what’s up with your folks?”
“Well, we live in South London. Dad, well Dad’s a printer.” replied Daisy. She felt slightly embarrassed talking about her dad. All the parents on the bus looked so much more important, not to mention how intimidating Brodie’s parents sounded. She felt herself blush. Brodie didn’t seem to care.
“Printing? That’s awesome!” She said, “I’m into printing and writing and stuff- I used to look after the school magazine back in LA. Your dad sounds cool.”
Daisy smiled. Her dad was pretty cool.
“What does your mom do?” asked Brodie. Daisy changed the conversation and pointed to a river outside the window.

The sun was coming out as they arrived at the town hall where the exam was taking place. Darlington was an old market town and the town hall, built of old stone with a large clock tower on top, sat in the middle.

“Wow.” said Brodie looking at the town hall, “ I’ve never seen history before.”
As the other girls hugged their parents and began to pour in through the old wooden doors, Daisy felt her nerves coming back. Brodie tugged at her and pulled her into the building. They stepped up to a desk where there were a couple of ladies checking girl’s names.
“What’s your name, dear?” said a rugged looking woman dressed in khaki trousers and shirt. She had a small name badge pinned to her lapel that read ‘Dr Penrose’.
“Daisy Cooper.”
“Daisy Cooper...? Aah, here we are.”
Dr Penrose ticked Daisy’s name off on the list.
“You can tell your parents that they can pick you up in a couple of hours if you like.”
“My parents are not here.”
“You came on your own?”
Daisy nodded.
“That’s awfully brave of you. Don’t you think that’s brave, Miss Brewster.” said Dr Penrose to the colleague sat next to her. Miss Brewster was a tall, wiry looking woman with the maddest, unkempt hair Daisy had ever seen. She had several spots of paint in it. Despite this, she had very kind eyes that twinkled as she smiled at Daisy.

“Very brave.” Said Miss Brewster, “Good luck, Daisy.”

Daisy walked through to the town hall with Brodie. Desks were lined out individually, pointing towards a wall with a huge clock on it. It was 2 minutes to nine. Daisy and Brodie sat at a couple of empty desks, looking around at all the girls that filled the room. Daisy wondered how many of them would be successful. Daisy recognised the woman in the tweed suit from the Roman villa as she walked into the hall with a tall, blondhaired lady. Her name tag said ‘Mistress Aitken’. That meant she was the Deputy Head at Darlington. Daisy heard the two teachers talking as they walked past her desk.

“We should only be taking applications from girls from the right schools. Why do I have to put up with this nonsense?” Said Mistress Aitken.The woman next to her shrugged. Her name badge read ‘Madame Didier’.
“Well, we have more important things to worry about.” Said Madame Didier. He voice had a strong French accent.
“Even so, I like to keep a tight ship.” Said Mistress Aitken,  “Who knows what troublemakers we might have in here.”

The Deputy Head reached the front of the hall and coughed loudly. She looked around with a scowl, making eye contact with every girl. Everyone fell silent.

“Right. The exam will last for an hour and a half and finish at half past ten so if you’d turn over your question sheets...NOW.”

The hall filled with the sound of a hundred papers being turned.

On the train on the way back, Daisy was tired but satisfied. She sat in a carriage with Brodie who was talking a mile a minute but Daisy’s mind was thinking back on the exam. The questions had been on many different things. Some to do with normal things like maths and english and things she knew but there were other sorts of questions there too. They were all based on the school virtues. They were things like “What do you understand by the word 'charity' and give an example an act of charity you have made” and “Describe what the word 'honourable' means to you and describe a well known figure you consider to have honour and why.” It was a bit baffling. For the charity question, Daisy wrote about giving her pocket money to Outside Dave, the homeless guy near her local shops. She wrote about the smile he had given her when she had handed him her coins. It wasn’t the money that Dave really wanted - he wanted to be treated like a human being. She thought of honour and tried to remember people from the news but none of them seemed particularly honourable - her dad was always shouting at them for a start. Then she remembered the mother fox outside her estate and how she had stolen food to feed her young. The fox had refused to leave her babies when the council men came to capture them. She was ready to die to protect the ones she loved. That sounded pretty honourable. There were another six questions like that. It made her brain hurt but it was enormous fun at the same time. 
Daisy was asleep on her feet when she arrived back at the house and it was barely three o’clock in the afternoon. She took the train ticket from her pocket and stared at it again. It could go on the corkboard next to the handkerchief and the exam letter. She told herself to not get excited. There were lots of girls in the exam room. Many of them very clever. She would just have to wait. Again.

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